Dimapur, 28 February (MTNews): The Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CNCCI) has called for a thorough CBI investigation into the Public Distribution System (PDS) of the Food & Civil Supplies (FCS) department, describing it as potentially “one of the largest scandals in the history of Nagaland” or even India.

According to CNCCI, many Priority Household (PHH) rice transporters have not received their October 2022 stock which were to be transported to various districts despite payments being made to the Department for lifting PHH rice, which were meant for the poorest section of Nagas.

On inquiry with the FCS department, the CNCCI said that the Department had initially informed CNCCI that beneficiaries had received their due allotment but later claimed that payments had been refunded to transporters, thereby contradicting itself. However, the CNCCI said they have “sufficient proof that the transporter has not received the money from the department.”

The CNCCI also asked where the rice is if the money has been refunded, maintaining that “the rice was not transported to PDS centres by the contracted transporters, unless the poor beneficiaries across Nagaland came to Dimapur FCI depot to take their rice.”

The CNCCI also suspected that rice meant for the poor section of the state may have found its way to rice polishing and repackaging units and then to the retail market.

“No wonder that the import of rice by the business community has gone down drastically while the consumption of rice has increased as per retail and wholesale market with ever increasing population,” the confederation added.

The CNCCI also expressed concern over how the state produces meager rice and has “dwindling import of rice yet the retailers and wholesalers get rice at cheaper rates in Dimapur through few rice mill owners who polish rice and traders (repackaging) as compared to price imported from outside the state.”

“This has led to an almost monopoly state of the rice market which is against the principles of the CNCCI and the business community of Nagaland,” it added.

Expressing worry over the possibility of impoverished beneficiaries purchasing their entitled rice from the market at inflated prices, the CNCCI has deemed such practices unethical.

Stating that the FCS department has affirmed that the sale of PDS rice in markets is illegal, the CNCCI has cautioned all business establishments against selling, polishing, or packaging PDS rice, vowing to take stringent action against any violators. Additionally, the CNCCI has directed all District Chambers of Commerce to intensify vigilance efforts to curb such unethical practices.

The CNCCI also raised concern over the inconsistent and non-transparent and lack of open tendering for the Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Tide Over schemes, alongside the PHH rice scheme.

The CNCCI has emphasized the need for transparency in the tendering process, stating that it is essential for the business community and unemployed youth to have equal opportunities. They have urged the authorities to ensure a fair and open tendering process for all three PDS schemes: PHH, AAY, and Tide Over.

Noting that the FCS department has only called open tender process for the PHH scheme, the CNCCI condemned the move stating that “a piece meal and face wash steps” is not acceptable and demanded that the tendering process for PHH be immediately called off.

The CNCCI demanded that all the three PDS – that is PHH, AAY and Tide Over tender – be called simultaneously otherwise the CNCCI said they will not hesitate to express its displeasure across the State.

While demanding a thorough CBI investigation, the CNCCI warned the department that it will not remain mute spectator but will protect the business community and the public.

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